Friday, December 29, 2006

He is Dead

According to al Hurrah television in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging a half hour ago.

Saddam is dead.
I'm not sure how I feel right now. Emotional is the word, but what sort of emotions are they? Relief that the wicked witch is dead? No. Glad that he'll no longer be on this earth to torment the people he was supposed to have served? Yes.


Yes. Will this be the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?

"Imposing the death penalty, indefensible in any case, is especially wrong after such unfair proceedings," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice programme, after the appeal failed.

I do know what I think about that statement. There are few people who ever lived whose lives were so remarkable only for their worthlessness and their deserving of the penalty of death.

But these are sentiments I can agree with:

"Saddam is paying the price for murdering tens of thousands of Iraqis. This is an unprecedented feeling of happiness. ... Nothing matches it, no festival or marriage or birth." — Abu Sinan, a resident of Sadr City, Baghdad's impoverished Shiite slum.

"Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him..." — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

My stomach is in knots. I can hardly believe it's true, and now that it's history, I'm not sure that I wanted it this way--this soon. What of all the other trials for which he could have been found guilty--will they continue? Or will the catharsis due to recognition of and penance for American and Western complicity in his debaucheries never occur?

The Guardian reported that

Details of the execution were still emerging early this morning. The authorities had rejected the idea of hanging him before a live audience in a Baghdad football stadium, but senior officials insisted that public confirmation of the success of his execution was "very important". A source in the justice ministry said the proceedings would be recorded by a video-cameraman and a stills photographer. "It is probable that clips and images may be broadcast on national TV," the official said, adding: "Iraqis must see for themselves that the man who oppressed them for so long is dead ... But we will not turn the whole thing into a circus."

I worry and await what hell may be unleashed at the news--or what rejoicing. Whatever the case, I hope that the truth will ensue, a truth that saves Iraq.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gallows Repentance?

Has Saddam finally seen the light? Is he repentant for all of the rapes, tortures, murders, and other crimes that he has committed? It would appear that way based on words he spoke yesterday. Maybe behind the mask is a coward. Maybe he thinks if he says something nice now, they will spare him the hangman's noose.

Here's my first reaction to Saddam's letter of November 5, 2006, which came out yesterday exhorting his former people to neither hate each other nor commit violence against each other or against the American aggressor--he sees the reality of his impending doom, and he thinks that if he says something nice now that he will get off the hook. Having recently read Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi, and based on her contention that millions of Iraqis despise him for all of his rapes, torture, and murders, somehow I think he's on the hook to stay.

By like Ms. Salbi, I have some sense of pity for him as well. What a wasted life--wasted in the wasting of others' lives.

My other thought is, 'Wouldn't it be nice if the Iraqi people actually listened to him?' Because, taken by themselves on this momentous fortnight before his death, they actually mostly make sense.

I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking. I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us. Remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence.

Okay, so he sort of gets it right, but most Iraqis think that Saddam is to blame for the American presence in Iraq. But just think of the possibilities if the Sunni and Shia could really sit down and forgive each other. This is hard to imagine, except as influenced by divine providence, which makes it entirely possible. It is a bit ironic that Saddam inflamed a lot of the tensions that Sunni and Shia harbor toward each other, which now, in a society of greater openness, have boiled over in to acts of revenge and re-revenge.

Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs.

Zainab Salbi mentions in Between Two Worlds that Saddam could on rare occasions be one of the most courteous people she had ever met, but as a result of most other associations with him, there is no person she is more afraid of in this world. Her book portrays a general sense of intense fear of the man in the lives of the thousands of people she knew or became acquainted with.

It would have been better if--like Mohammed, Moses, or Jesus Christ--The Butcher of Baghdad would have offered his life as a sacrifice to God instead of the physical and mental deaths of thousands upon thousands through his debauchery and perfidiousness. Because of his life of treachery, it is hard to imagine his "soul" containing any substance at all, much less anything worthy of a sacrifice to God.

I suspect God pities Saddam, too.

Note: Click here for further discussion of this issue at A Soldier's Perspective.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

al Qaeda and Iraq: A Connection?

Many have dismissed out of hand the information that Stephen Hayes has compiled in his book, The Connection as blatherings based almost entirely on a leaked, highly classified memo from Douglas Feith of the Defense Department. In truth, the allegations in the book are based on much more, and it is disingenuous and dangerous to dismiss them so simplistically and uncritically.

Read Part 2 of this series: "al Qaeda and Iraq: A Connection? Clinton Says Yes".

The fact that Abu Musab al Zarqawi found sanctuary in Iraq makes it clear that Iraq and al Qaeda have some sort of a working relationship. It stands to reason that there might just be more to this story...

In its critique of Stephen F. Hayes book, The Connection, Media Matters suggests that the book is based almost entirely on a 16-page, highly classified memo that was (illegally?) leaked by Under-secretary of Defense Douglas Feith to Hayes. The Media Matters analysis also implies that Hayes could not be an expert on the subject that he writes about. In point of fact, the book:

is based on several trips to the Middle East; three to Iraq. It draws on sources built in that time, and includes hundreds of interviews with former Iraqi military officers; Iraqi immigrants to the United States; senior officials in the new Iraqi government, in Europe, and in the Middle East; current and former U.S. intelligence officials; soldiers and officers in the U.S. military; and senior policy makers in both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Hayes' book suspiciously has no foot- or endnotes. It does claim, however, that "much of the information...comes from 'open sources.' So I set out to confirm or deny those open sources.

The first chapter of the book discusses an admittedly obscure figure, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," says the saying. It is not at all improbable that two individuals, Bin Laden and Hussein, could have had a relationship of general hatred except in those cases where they shared a mutual enemy. In 1998, the Clinton administration stated that Iraq posed a threat as a "rogue state with weapons of mass destruction" who appeared ready to use them. Within the week, Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa against America, claiming that because of their continuing aggression against the people of Iraq, all Americans should be killed.

Although the claim has engendered a large amount of controversy, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir possibly facilitated collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq. It has become a sacrosanct tenet of George W. Bush's American detractors that "There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever," as Richard Clarke put it. In an effort to maintain public respect for this allegation, it seems paramount that the story of Ahmed Shakir be thoroughly discredited. In an effort to dismiss what turns out to be some very interesting reportage on the part of Hayes, Media Matters attempts such an impetuous dismissal of Hayes claim as that "the story was most likely the result of 'confusion over names.' "

Here are some of the statements that Hayes makes about Shakir in chapter one of The Connection:

1. Shakir told co-workers that he had been hired by "a contact in the Iraqi embassy." The Iraqi embassy figure told him when to report to work and when not to. (p. 1)

Global security reports, among other things, on who may have been the embassy contact.

2. Shakir met and escorted Khalid al Mihdhar in Malaysia on January 5, 2000, to the home of al Qaeda member, Yazid Sufaat. Malaysian intelligence followed Shakir and al Mihdhar and photographed their adventure. al Mihdhar was later determined to be one of the hijackers of American Airlines flight 77 that struck the Pentagon on 9/11. (pp. 3-4)

Here's what McClatchy newspapers reported around that time.

Cooperative Research lists news stories that discuss Shakir's possible meetings with al Qaeda and his associations with al Mihdhar.

3. Shakir knew and had worked with Zahid Sheik Mohammed and Musab Yasin, brothers of the masterminds of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His phone contained the number of Abu Hajer al Iraqi, an original member of al Qaeda.

The above Cooperative Research link delves into these possibilities as well.

4. On October 21, 2001, Shakir boarded a plane for Iraq, but was detained in Amman, Jordan by Jordanian intelligence. Immediately thereafter, a flurry of communications, originating from inside the Iraqi government, sought to obtain his release.

NewsMax explains how and why Shakir was eventually released.

5. Jordanian intelligence concluded that Shakir's embassy contact in Malaysia worked for the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and that it was highly likely that Shakir was working for IIS as well.

Not all of this information may be accurate, but it is compelling. Hayes even admits that it does not necessarily prove that Iraq and al Qaeda worked together to plan and conduct the 9/11 attacks. But for someone who is not hell-bent on claiming that George W. Bush is a fraud and that we had no business invading Iraq, it seems that the information in Hayes' book bears the need for a great deal of study.
Read Part 2 of this series: "al Qaeda and Iraq: A Connection? Clinton Says Yes".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Evidence of Iranian Support of Iraqi Insurgency

In light of the fact that US Troops seized high-level Iranian military members in a raid on a site suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, I thought it appropriate to research the evidence that exists as to Iranian support of the Iraqi insurgency.

Updated December 29, 2006.

It is interesting that, while recently following a lead to apprehend insurgents who had reportedly been planning and conducting attacks against Iraqi security forces, US military personnel were heard to exclaim (and I paraphrase):

Holy crap! There are a couple of Iranian dudes in here!

The New York Times, reporting on the story, makes the bland accusation in its otherwise impeccably non-partisan reportage of the story that:

American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of interfering in this country’s internal affairs, but have rarely produced evidence.

December 29 update: Since the initial arrest, US military leaders say that they have uncovered evidence that 2 high-ranking Iranian military leaders were organizing insurgent attacks against civilians, US forces, and Iraqi forces. Initial statements from Iraq president Jalal Talabani that he had invited them are being disputed, and they "did not appear to have formally registered with the government."

While in Iraq, I was part of briefings wherein we learned that clearly identifiably Iranian arms shipments had on more than one occasion been intercepted at various points in Iraq or along its border. Part of the shipments taken over were technologically improved Improvised Explosive Devices.

A lot of the killing in Iraq appears to be a back and forth of Sunni killing Shia and Shia seeking revenge and killing Sunni, and on and on. But I wonder, how much of the killing on either side is being fomented by Iran, who has a BIG dog in this fight (even moreso today as it has been reported that Iranian oil reserves may be dwindling).

On June 23, General George Casey gave a report of the progress:

Army General George Casey told reporters at the Pentagon June 22 that covert Iranian special forces are adding to the complexity of an unstable security situation in Iraq by providing weapons, roadside bomb technology and training to Shi’ite extremist groups.

Casey returned to Washington from Iraq to brief Defense Department officials and others on Iraq’s progress. Appearing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the general said Iranian assistance to Iraqi insurgents is “decidedly unhelpful.” He said Iran is using surrogate groups to attack Iraqi, U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and that some of the surrogates are being trained in Iran, while others are receiving training in Lebanon.

So in an effort to see what's been going on, let's Google the clock all the way back to...November 30, 2006.

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

In March of 2006, ABC News had a similar story.

U.S. military and intelligence officials tell ABC News that they have caught shipments of deadly new bombs at the Iran-Iraq border.

Another article reports that the US Military seized weapons shipments from Iran in the south of Iraq in summer 2006.

On May 15, 2008, Iraq the Model cites an Associate Press story wherein Iran admits that Iranians were augmenting the Iraqi insurgency. (See link inside blog post.)

WorldNetDaily reports that al Zarqawi and other al Qaeda members have received sanctuary in Iran.

In early 2005, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Al-Shaalan accused Iran of supporting the Iraqi insurgency.

See if you've ever heard this one before: an Iranian agent arrested in Iraq for fomenting and financing attacks--sound familiar? But this one happened in January 2005.

And even today, the Saudis grow more and more grim as they contemplate the growing Iranian threat, including their cavorting with members of the Iraqi insurgency.

Yes, there's a little bit of evidence, I guess.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Triumph of Jihad

Islamists have often in the past seen America as weak, and probably more so now than ever, with all of the debate about the Iraq war. Several Jihadists have made it clear that they preferred the Democrats to take power in the November elections, because they are confident that Democrats will effect the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, which will be seen as a victory for Islam over the west.

Al Qaeda, who through a series of demoralizing victories over the Soviets, caused them to withdraw from Afghanistan, always felt the Americans would be the easier of the two superpowers to dispatch. The evidence was clear: we left Vietnam, we left Beruit, and we left Somalia.

Increasing vitriolic debate in America indicates to the Jihadists that they are approaching victory. Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, views it this way:
...the debate in this country since [9/11] has caused many of the perpetrators and sponsors [of Islamic terrorism] to return to their previous diagnosis [that despite our post 9/11 resolve, America can indeed beaten].

...What we see as free debate, they see as weakness, fear and division. Thus they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph, and the final Jihad.

The rancor of our debate makes us seem even weaker, especially when many debaters don't take into consideration the current state of affairs when calling for (a) a withdrawal from Iraq, and (b) George Bush and Dick Cheney's heads.

Islamic terror leaders were pleased at the outcome of the November 2006 elections in America.

WorldNetDaily reported shortly after the elections that several chief terrorists in and around Jerusalem were pleased with the outcome. Claims have recently been made by Hamas that it met with US Democrats. Jubilant over the report of the Iraq Study Group, terror leaders feel that their brand of terrorism has been vindicated. Prior to the elections, representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade expressed preference for a Democrat victory in America, feeling that such a political victory would lead to withdrawal from Iraq and a victory for Islamic Jihad.

On December 22, ABC News reported a statement of Ayman al Zawahiri of al Qaeda, confirming the preference for Democrat victory, with a clear expectation of the implications of that victory:

you aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost.

And if you don't refrain from the foolish American policy of backing Israel, occupying the lands of Islam and stealing the treasures of the Muslims, then await the same fate.

If we don't stand unified in the face if the Islamo-terrorist threat, the next attack will be within our own shores. Dennis Miller put it comedically yet poignantly in the following monologue:

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When the Truth is Tardy

When the United States military acts without integrity, it is a huge blow to the integrity of the entire mission of the United States. We thought we had learned this with the Abu Ghraib embarrassment. Then came Haditha. It's good that finally today justice is served, but the atrocities were hidden for way too long.

Whenever I pray for the United States military troops, I pray not only for their success and safety, but also that they act with as much dignity and aplomb as they can under the duress of the situation.

When we don't act as we should, it undermines everything we are trying to accomplish. But when something such as the Haditha murders are covered up for several months, it is a major embarrassment to the United States. The Abu Ghraib travesty was more than enough. In retrospect of both Abu Ghraib and Haditha, all we can say is that our best attempt at retro-active justice is complete. But the lives lost can never be replaced.

It is far past time that today 8 Marines were charged either with murder or with complicity in its cover-up of the incident that occurred just over 13 months ago.

I tend to agree with the sentiments of some of the Iraqis.

"Are they terrorists or are they fighting terrorism?" said Jamal al-Obaidi, a 40-year-old teacher. "The trial is not fair because it is taking place in America.
"The American troops should be brought here, in front of an Iraqi court," Naji al-Ani, a 36-year-old laborer, said by telephone from Haditha. "They committed a horrible crime against innocents."

Der Speigel writes recently that the US Army is teaching what it has learned from its mistakes. Let's hope that avoiding future travesties such as Haditha is a required course.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iraq's Economy Makes a Comeback

I'm not sure whether this will come as bad news to people who are against the war in Iraq--I hope not. But to me, it is excellent news. Iraq's economy is surprisingly strong for the violence and other problems the country is having.

In the December 18, 2006 International Edition of Newsweek magazine, we learn that "Iraq's Economy is Booming!".

Cell phones, a few years ago non-existent in Iraq, now number 7.1 million. Despite the destruction of the insurgency, oil revenues are higher than at any time in Iraq's history. More than four times as many private companies exist than during the last days of Saddam.

Sang's Blog lists several of the improvements aided by the US military.

Amir Taheri reports from Um Qasr that in that once almost ghost town, and in 80% of Iraq the economy is improving in leaps and bounds.

judging by the talk in teahouses and the debate in Iraq's new and pluralist media, most people welcome the switch to capitalism and regard it as an exciting adventure.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Moral Support for Liberty - A Lesson for Iraq?

Presidents Carter and Reagan perhaps set the pattern for the success of democracy when lending America's moral support to the dissident movement of Poland. What would be the difference if America could roll back the clock to late 2002 and make a decision for moral support of Iraqi dissidents instead of invasion of Iraq itself? Would the United States and the world be in a better position today?

Some acquaintances of mine assume that, because I served with the United States military in Iraq, that I necessarily supported the decision of the Bush administration to invade Iraq. This is not the case. I actually contemplated retirement from the military rather than supporting the invasion. Speaking with family members, friends, and co-workers I explained to them that I did not think enough evidence existed to support an invasion.

In early 2003, I was notified that my National Guard field artillery unit was being activated and sent to Iraq. Beside being a traumatic moment for me and my family, I also remember a strange feeling of calmness. My thoughts were, "I volunteered to be in the military, and I'm still in, and I've been ordered to active duty, so it doesn't matter what my political feelings are at this point."

I ended up not, as first impressions were, participating in the initial invasion of Iraq; instead my battalion served in place of a regular army battalion that did participate in the invasion.

Six months later we were back home, and again I contemplated retirement. My wife and I thought and prayed about the decision, and felt strongly that I should continue my military service.

Two years after my first active duty stint concluded, my battalion was re-called to active duty, and this time found itself in Ramadi, Iraq. Over the course of my stay, my primary goal was to give the Iraqi people not only a good impression of the United States in general, but particularly a good impression of the American military. A few of those experiences are shared as earlier posts in this web log.

In retrospect, my wife and I are both glad that we decided I should stay in the military, and we are especially glad for my service in Iraq. However, I often have wondered...

...President Ronald Reagan was and is a hero of mine. I admire his ability to stand up with optimism against the adversary of despotism. That is why the following story and commentary is so informative to me, and it makes me wonder what would have happened if we could go back and have a do-over in Iraq--something the Carter administration began, and something in whose eventual success Ronald Reagan participated.

December 13, 1981 signaled, in retrospect, the downfall of the Communist Polish government, rather than the feared failure of Solidarity and the struggle for freedom.

Janusz Reiter, Poland's current ambassador to the United States, has this to say about that event:

The United States made the right decision. President Ronald Reagan accurately perceived that Poland offered the fulcrum needed to move things forward from the so-called Yalta pattern of a divided Europe. The United States gave the Solidarity opposition the support it needed most -- moral support. By doing so the Reagan administration followed in the footsteps of President Jimmy Carter's administration, which had listened to the advice of its national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and strongly supported earlier dissident movements.

Ambassador Reiter also says of the United States' support for the dissident movement in Poland:

American leaders at the time showed a particular sense of psychological and political intuition.

First, they perceived in what direction Poland was moving and chose to support those who would later prove to be the catalysts of political and social change.

Second, there was never a doubt that Solidarity was a movement developed from Polish tradition and experience, and that the Poles knew what was best for their country. The United States respectfully accepted this.

Third, this was a great fight for hearts and minds. To win it, the United States opened its arms, in particular to the younger generations of Poles. Thousands of them -- scientists, artists, students -- then came to the United States. Some remained here, but many returned to Poland and used their American experiences to help deal with the growing pains of a newly democratic society.

Two differences immediately jump out at the way Poland and Iraq were treated by the United States.

  1. The Carter and Reagan administrations chose moral support, while the Bush Administration chose invasion, occupation, and nation building. The Bush administration's rationale was that the Hussein regime could easily attack us on our own soil, and therefore we must attack them on their turf; however, Carter and Reagan could have easily made a stronger case that the Soviets were much more able to attack us here than Saddam Hussein was.

  2. Solidarity, prior to the United States' moral support, had a much greater presence, organization, and purpose than did the dissident movement in Iraq. Lack of separation of church and state makes a sticky mess of political disagreement in the Middle East, so it may be a bit "pie in the sky" to expect Iraq's dissidents to be as unified as were the Poles of Solidarity. Nonetheless, a much greater groundswell toward liberty existed in the Poland of 1981 than did in the Iraq of 2003.

If George W. Bush had used the same tack for Iraq as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan did for Poland, would Iraq be in a better situation today? In light of recent historical events in Iraq, if America steps back militarily from Iraq, will it be possible to provide moral support for the Iraqi "dissident movement", or is it too late?

A shorter version of this post originally appeared on

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What Did Tony Blair Know?

A recently released British document states that Tony Blair knew that Saddam's WMDs were not a threat and that chaos would ensue the removal of Saddam Hussein.

It's clear that chaos would reign supreme in the months following Saddam's ouster from power in Iraq. One question, though, is 'Did the Bush administration not know or consider this when preparing plans to attack Iraq?'

In addition to making this statement, a recently released document also indicates that the British assessment of Iraq's WMD capability was that it had been contained. The Inter Press Service indicates that Carne Ross, UN negotiator for Britain, as well as others, advised Mr. Blair against going to war in Iraq, and suggested alternative solutions to solve the issues at hand:

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said.

"At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."

In corroborating the story, The Telegraph says that
Mr Ross gave his evidence to Lord Butler's inquiry in June 2004, but sources said he had never published it because the Foreign Office had suggested to him that it would breach the Official Secrets Act.
Mr. Ross also states

Co-ordinated and sustained action to prevent illegal exports and target Saddam's illegal monies would have consumed a tiny proportion of the effort and resource of the war.

This is undoubtedly true, but how likely was it that the actions of Kofi Annan and his henchmen at the United Nations exacerbated the problem and made this alternative less likely to succeed?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Old Habits Die Hard

Why does America not have nearly the intrigue and lawlessness of other countries, particularly those coming out of despotism? The reason is a healthy religious life, including respect for other peoples' religion.

After nearly 20 years, Romania still has problems related to communism. Secret police and communist leaders, once the political be- and end-alls, migrated into the economic sphere, and now control great swaths of the semi-free market. Unsolved murders, although not as prevalent as they once were, are still somewhat the norm.

The recent death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko underscores how difficult it has been for the former Soviet Union to transform itself into a free and prosperous society. All indicators point to former KGB boss, Vladimr Putin, as being behind the murder. Twenty-something years after glasnost and perestroika, Russia is still feeling the pains of centuries of intrigue and fear.

With these events as patterns, what do we expect from Iraq, which has recently emerged from under the rock known as Saddam Hussein?

I once debated with a friend whether or not religion had caused all of the wars in history. He said Yes, it did, and I said No, it didn't. When I suggested that Communism had killed more people than any other force in history, he said "Well, Communism is a religion of sorts, isn't it?"

I suggested to a friend of mine from Tatarstan (a territory of Russia) that I was writing this blog post, and he agrees with my principle thesis, that a lack of freedom of religion (whether it still exists or previously existed for a long period of time) is at the root of most of the problems in his country. Many people in Tatarstan would agree with this statement, he said.

Religion generally provides people with a way to strive for the good things in life. Religion generally encourages people to do unto others as they would be done by. Religion, although it can be prostituted for non-religious purposes, has an ameliorating effect on society, with very few exceptions.

Two of those exceptions--in which religion can be a detriment to society--are when religion dominates the legal society, as is the case today in many Islamic countries, or when the legal society dominates religion, as is the case in Iran (and to some extent, Israel) today, and as was until recently the case in Iraq.

Religion is one of the greatest passions in the human breast. Generally, the free exercise of religion channels that passion for worthwhile purposes. When that passion is bottled up, either through religious or legal domination, social problems ensue. The problems we are seeing in the former Soviet Union and former Warsaw Pact countries are generally a result of the dark night of Communism, wherein the only sanctioned religion was the worship of the state.

The problems we are seeing in Iraq are equally deep seated in both the domination of society by Islam over the centuries, and, more recently, the domination of religion by Saddam Hussein.

It would require divine intervention to effect a quick solution to the Iraqi problem. In the meantime, one by one, Iraqis must decide that their fellowmen are more important than the deep seated hatred they have for them as a result of having so long not been allowed to practice religion according to their personal passion and freedom of choice.

For those of us who believe in a God who is willing to bless us and answer our prayers, perhaps we should pray that the "one by ones" can have his guidance and protection, so that Iraq can emerge more quickly from the dark night of despotism into the light of a day of newfound religious freedom.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The United States of France

It has been customary over the last couple of centuries for other nations to look down on the French, in general, as wussies. But times are a changin'. In our gadarene rush to disfavor George W. Bush, we have nearly become the United States of France. The point about Iraq is that the Iraqi people once trusted the American people, but it seems they would be stupid to trust us now, and I guess we don't care.

Since the victory of the Democratic party in November, the French is coming out in us. The French people as a whole have pretty much always been wimps, but now, it seems, so are Americans.

The French in the last century or so haven't found a fight that they didn't run away from. The French have descended from a people low in morals, high in obsequiousness to their leaders, and even higher in personal aggrandizement and prestige seeking. It is, therefore, no difficult feat to understand why they have so many problems today (unemployment, increasing violence, love for socialism, and fear of Iran, to name a few).

What is more difficult to understand, however, is how a country descended from hearty, self-sufficient, and truth-loving stock could have become so much like the wussy French. I guess most of us are too busy watching CSI, Survivor, and American Idol to make much of our lives, and a significant additional percentage of us hate George Bush so bad that we can't think the current issue through to its logical conclusion.

No matter how much even a majority of us wish it to be true, the main point of the war in Iraq is not oil. Oil is important, and we should open up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf of Mexico so that we can become independent of foreign oil. But it has never been the primary issue.

We are in a situation now that the main point is also no longer whether or not the Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. Some democrats and some republicans never thought there were any--including me--but many others thought there were. Saddam had pursued nuclear weapons production and gave a pretty good (although false) indication that he was close to producing them. Saddam used his chemical and conventional weapons too fertilize the vast deserts of Arabia with the bodies of tens of thousands. But that is no longer the point, either.

The main point, unfortunately for some, is also not whether George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied to the American people. It appears that they jumped to conclusions, but even if they lied, this is no longer the point.

The point of it all, and the only point that matters, is that the majority of Iraqis once trusted the American people, but apparently that trust was as misplaced as if it had been placed in France.

A poll was recently conducted of Iraqis that came to the following conclusions (1) 19 of 20 Iraqis say security was better under Saddam Hussein, (2) 9 in 10 people feel unsafe around American soldiers, and (3) 2/3 will feel safer when US troops leave Iraq.

In a world where people were completely free of fear, the poll numbers might mean something, but these poll numbers are next to useless. Here's why:

1. Security was better under Saddam, because if someone attempted to violate Saddam’s security, he dispatched his angels of death or torture, a strong deterrent.

2. 9 out of 10 people in Baghdad, where Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies is based, probably have something to fear were they to say they feel safe with American soldiers around. After all, is that really a pollster on the other end of the phone line?

3. That 2/3 feel safer could be a feeling that can also be explained by my item number two, or it could be a hope that Sunni and Shia will stop attacking each other when America leaves–a tenuous bet at best, unless…we bring back Saddam to restore security.

The Iraqis don't trust us. After all, they can watch our news and see all the crap that gets reported and the stuff that doesn't. After all, self-centered and Bush-bashing types have been clamoring for at least the last two years for the United States to abandon Iraq. And it looks like we've just about capitulated to these voices of venom and unreason.

So, since we are failing the Iraqi people yet again, I suggest a name change more fitting of our inability to stand for anything--The United States of France.

Would you trust us? I wouldn't. We're wussies!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Accomplishments of the Iraq Study Group

The vaunted Iraq Study Group's main accomplishments to date have been to issue a series of empty platitudes, to embolden terrorists who think America is now beatable even on our own soil, and to cause to plummet the desire of the American populace to endure until a peaceful solution in Iraq is achieved.

Part two of the one-two punch has just been delivered. First, the Democrats took power in both houses of Congress, a defeat which the Republicans richly deserved. Now, just as the Republicans are staggering back up off the canvas, the Iraq Study Group weighs in.

The Iraqis didn't think much of it, nor did the Israelis or the US military. For that matter, neither did the mullahs.

"Abandon ship! Abandon ship! But not for a few more months!"

Perhaps this was not the intent of the ISG report, but liberals, both of the political and the media persuasion are latching onto the report to further their Bush hatred. The claim is essentially that Bush's policies have been all wrong and that he is at fault for the mayhem occurring in Iraq. A favorite verb in the past few days is "repudiate".

The report isn't all fodder for Bush haters. Some good has come of it, such as the mention that Saudi Arabians are deep into funding the Sunni side of the killing in Iraq.

But William Bennett had this to say about it:

Perhaps the most systemic problem with the report is it didn’t tell us how to win; it answered how to get out. The commissioners answered the wrong question, but it was the only one they wanted to answer. In all my time in Washington, I’ve never seen such smugness, arrogance or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible.

Terror leaders are jubilant in that, because of the tenor of the ISG report, they feel they have and will continue to prevail over America.

Abu Abdullah said following a withdrawal from Iraq, the U.S. will be defeated on its own soil.

"America must understand that with anti-American governments in Latin America and with Islam growing and reinforcing, including in the U.S. itself, the next step would be a total defeat on their (American) land, not a relative one like they are facing in Iraq," he said.

About the time the ISG report was prematurely made available to the American media, the war's popularity rating was at only 36%, and it's going down.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Good News is Findable

Thank you to the bloggers, filmmakers, service members, and their families who remind us from time to time that there are a lot of positive things going on in Iraq.

I recently received a comment to one of my posts about good news from a blogger named Kari...with a K. After reading her comment, I perused her blog site, and found many things that I wish I had found and posted on mine. Kari has done an excellent job since her blog debuted in October of finding the good news needles in the haystack of bad news.

Kari's comment came at a good time for me, because I've been doing a bit of second-guessing of myself lately. Was the year I served in Iraq worth it, or have I just been able to convince myself that I don't have a psychosis? She's reminded me not only that it was worth it, but that there are still many soldiers and civilians in Iraq who think serving God's children of any race or religion is worth it.

I have made Kari's blog a member of my blog roll. Thanks Kari for lifting my spirits with your comments.

By the way, here is a link to my favorite of Kari's posts so far.

In the post, Kari links to an award-winning documentary movie called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. I encourage you to check it out.

Gates "Concedes" US Not Winning War

To concede something, that something has to first be established as true. So is what Robert Gates said on Tuesday a concession that the US is losing in Iraq?

con·cede [kuhn-seed] verb, -ced·ed, -ced·ing.
–verb (used with object) acknowledge as true, just, or proper; admit:

The Associated Press recently reported that Robert Gates, President Bush's nominee for Secretary of Defense "conceded" yesterday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq.

Robert Gates, the White House choice to be the next defense secretary, conceded Tuesday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and warned that if that country is not stabilized in the next year or two it could lead to a "regional conflagration."

What actually happened was, when asked during confirmation hearings if the US was winning, Gates replied, succinctly, "No." So the question for the AP is: Who was Gates conceding to? The Democrats in Congress? The Associated Press? For something to be conceded, that something must be true. What happened yesterday was that Mr. Gates gave as his opinion that we are not winning the war. I agree with his opinion that escalating violence could lead to a regional conflagration, but I don't agree with the rest of his opinion. However, the AP's slight of hand converts his opinion into a "concession" that, therefore, we must be losing, a "concession" which, apparently, I'm not allowed to disagree with.

It's interesting to note a very similar report on Al Jazeera.

Robert Gates, whose nomination for the post of defence secretary has been unanimously approved by a US senate panel, has conceded that the US is not winning the war in Iraq.

Gates told the US senate armed services committee that if Iraq is not stabilised in the next year or two, it could lead to a "regional conflagration".

It may be that coalition forces' being in Iraq is no longer the best thing for the Iraqi people. But this does not axiomize a statement that we are losing a war. I don't think we're losing. There is still much progress being made, a lot of which is ignored by the media.

Ask the tens of thousands of coalition troops currently in Iraq, many of which interact with Iraqi people on a daily basis--they don't think we're losing.

If anyone is losing the war, it is the Sunni and Shia' people. Death squads from each sect stalk each other's adherents like ravenous wolves in a tit for tat that will not end until enough people realize the senselessness of it all.

There was a concession in the AP story, I think. Maybe the Associated Press is conceding to al Jazeera.

All the News That's Fit to Ignore

In the midst of all the negative talk about President Bush and how things are going in Iraq, a huge story was missed. Or was it just not reported?

Everything bad. All the time. President Bush lied, soldiers died. Body count way, way, way up and climbing.

The new motto of America haters is:

Hear no good, see no good, speak no good.

It's interesting how difficult it is to find good news about what's happening in Iraq. It's not because there isn't good news. This has always been the case. It's because 'if we think something is bad, we must only show those issues that support our side of the story, rather than be fair in our debate.'

The bad news should not be minimized. But neither should the good.

A recently very good development was spiked by the media. NewsBusters recently reported the following:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – In one week's time, Coalition Forces captured 11 suspected senior-level terrorists of Ansar al Sunna during a series of raids in north-central Iraq during mid-November.

During the raids, Coalition Forces captured the terrorist emirs of Iraq, Ramadi, Baqubah, Tikrit, al Qa’im, Bayji and Baghdad. They also captured two terrorist facilitators, a courier, an explosives expert and a financier.

The detention of these terrorists delivers a serious blow to the AAS network that is responsible for improvised explosive device attacks and suicide attacks and on Iraqi government, Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians. The AAS network is also responsible for multiple kidnappings, small arms attacks and other crimes in the central and northern part of Iraq.

AAS is considered by some to be a leading terror organization in Iraq as al-Qaida’s leadership continues to crumble and it loses its ability to function due to Iraqi and Coalition Forces systematic dismantling efforts.

NewsBusters also noted that it had a hard time finding very many news sites at all that reported on the story.

Is it an important story? Or do you care?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Did We Get Sucked In?

The Bush Administration says that we attacked Iraq, among other reasons, because we wanted to fight the terrorists on their turf rather than in the American homeland. Is it possible that al Qaeda would rather fight us there, too?

In the recent book Countdown to Crisis by Kenneth Timmerman, it becomes clear that much more is known about Iran's attempts to acquire nuclear strike capabilities than about Iraq's abilities in the same arena. It is apparent that Iraq has not succeeded to anywhere near the extent as Iran when it comes to nuclear capability. This may be dependent on the destruction of the Osirak nuclear facility by Israel in 1981.

Near the end of the book Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, the suggestion is made in passing that perhaps Iran put known Iranian sympathizer Ahmed Chalabi and others up to the task of convincing the Bush Administration that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons.

In July of this year,
The Management of Savagery, a 268-page document by al-Qaeda operative Abu Bakr Naji, was translated into English by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Reporting on the translation and concomitant revelations, The New American magazine has this to say:

Rather than plotting to attack the U.S. homeland, al-Qaeda prefers to draw the U.S. into distant fights in the Muslim world, concludes Will McCants, a West Point fellow.

“Naji [author of the al-Qaeda study] believes the way you really hurt empires is to make them commit their military far from their base of operations,” McCants observes. Naji doesn’t support further 9/11-style attacks on the U.S. “because right now he feels al-Qaeda has the upper hand in the public relations battle” in the Muslim world. “The point is to make [the U.S.] come in” as invaders, where the Muslims who fight our troops will “be seen as fighting the crusaders directly so you’ll win over the public.... That’s the way they want to get to the U.S."

In our attempt to keep terrorists off our shores, did we conform exactly to al Qaeda's plan? If so, what's our next move?